Today at 2:30 PM ET on NFL Network, the 2016 Senior Bowl will be taking place with representatives from all over the NFL on site with clipboards in hand. Here are 5 players that you and the scouts should be taking a look at:
QB Carson Wentz North Dakota State
Unless you have been living under a rock, you have seen all the hype that Wentz has generated over the past week of practices leading up to the Senior Bowl. At 6’6″ and weighing in at 235 pounds, Wentz has the size that most scouts look for in NFL quarterbacks, he has interview well over with multiple teams and looked very impressive in practice. This past season, Wentz completed 62.5% of his passes for 1,651 yards and 17 TDs in 7 games. He missed half of the season due to a broken wrist but still came through when his team needed him and led them to another FCS National Championship. Despite occasionally struggling with his footwork, Wentz has stellar mechanics and can fit the ball into many tight spaces. Mike Mayock compared Wentz to the last FCS quarterback selected in the first round, Joe Flacco. AN unnamed NFL executive who spoke with Cleveland.com this week claimed that the if the Browns took Wentz with the 2nd overall pick, they would not have to worry about finding another starting quarterback for another 15 years. With a good game today, I believe the Browns would commit to drafting him with the 2nd overall pick and end the Manziel Era in Cleveland.
WR Sterling Shepard Oklahoma
While Carson Wentz has gotten all of the spotlight for his performance at practice, Sterling Shepard was actually named Practice Player of the Week. The 5’10”, 195 pound wide receiver is slowly climbing up the draft board as the week progresses. Once regarded as a potential 4th or 5th round pick, there is now talk that Shepard could go as early as the 2nd round based off of scout’s reevaluation of his tape and the way he has played this week. Throughout his college career, Shepard has excelled at getting separation from corners either by burning them with his speed or stellar route running. He has been extremely effective as a slot receiver in his career at Oklahoma and had a great season in 2015, amassing 86 receptions, 1288 yards, and 11 TDs. I would compare him to Desean Jackson (5’10”, 178 lb) or Tyler Lockett (5’10”, 182 lb) as he is a good punt returner and has explosive speed. A good game today could push him to a borderline first rounder for teams that wide receiver needy.
DE Shawn Oakman Baylor
Running into a brick wall would hurt, but imagine a brick wall running into you. This is how I imagine quarterbacks feeling when Shawn Oakman is barreling down on top of them. At 6’9″ and 275 pounds, he is a beast of a human being. An underwhelming senior year statistically speaking has dropped him on some NFL team radars, but don’t let the numbers fool you. This guy is still capable of knocking offensive lineman back into their quarterback. Oakman finished his career as the Baylor all-time leader in tackles for loss (46.5) and sacks (17.5). While he is still a raw prospect, once he figures out all of the mechanics and polishes off his game, he will be a scary good player. If he can play good today, he will definitely sneak into the first round on some big boards.
LB Reggie Ragland Alabama
Scouts decided to put Ragland to the test this week and moved him from an interior linebacker to an outside linebacker to test his ability to rush the passer. He passed the test and again proved his worth as a first round pick in the draft. The leader of Alabama’s outstanding championship defense was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year after finishing the season with 97 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. As a consensus All-American, Ragland has been on many teams radar since the beginning of the year. Most people around the NFL compare him to former Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain who has created a significant role for himself on the Dallas Cowboys defense. He is a very well-liked guy and figures to do well in interviews with teams that value high character. A great tackler and good leader, Ragland is with a doubt a first rounder in this draft.
DT Vernon Butler Louisiana Tech
Another big boy, at 6’3″, 325 pounds, Butler has been watched all season by scouts and has not disappointed. PLaying on the interior he has been able to impose his will on offensive lineman. He finished his senior year with 50 tackles, 10 of those for loss, and 3 sacks. It will be interesting to see Butler take on some higher level competition after playing in the C-USA whil;e at Louisiana Tech. Look for him to match up with guys such as Graham Glaslow from Michigan and Evan Boehm from Missouri which could make or break both their draft stocks. As long as Butler is not shut out it today’s game he figures to be a a mid to late first round pick for a team looking for an interior defensive anchor.
Other guys to watch today:
RB Kenneth Dixon Louisiana Tech
WR Braxton Miller Ohio State
DT Jarran Reed Alabama
DE Noah Spence Eastern Kentucky
CB Jonathan Jones Auburn